Formal gardens of any size take hordes of servants to set up and maintain. Today we have neither the servants nor the time. If you’re like me, you have a hard enough time keeping up with the weeding. But if you hanker after a touch of gentility in your plot, there are some shortcuts you can use to create a Texas-style formal herb garden.
The easiest formal garden style uses the familiar grid pattern. Divide your plot into two feet squares. Level the ground with a rake and place paving stones in the squares to form pathways through your garden. You can alternate them like the red and black squares of a checkerboard or you can form larger designs, perhaps a diamond in a square.
Plant your herbs in the unpaved squares, alternating the texture and color of the foliage. For example, lavender and oregano have similar growing needs and contrasting foliage. Plant shorter herbs in the outer rim and taller herbs toward the center. Thyme and chamomile are good around the edge. Taller herbs such as mullein, dill, or lemon grass, will look better in the center where they won’t block their short neighbors from view.
Maintaining the grid design is a piece of cake. The paving stones give you weed-free paths. Weeding and harvesting are also easier because you’ll always have a place to stand without treading on the soil and compacting the roots.
A real down-home way to give your herbs a touch of form without the formality is the “drop-and-plant” method. Poke around the contents of your garage or barn and think creatively. Look for old frames from doors or windows. Anything that provides a structure with openings large enough for plants will do nicely.
Here’s a couple of interesting drop-and-plant garden designs. Get an old wooden step ladder and drop it down in your garden. Plant your herbs between the rungs, alternating the plants’ color and texture. If you’re lucky enough to have a large wagon wheel (wooden or otherwise), lay that down and plant between the spokes. Fill the spaces with topsoil and plant herbs and flowers in your new semi-formal garden.